Australia news live update: NSW records 22 Covid deaths and 92,264 cases as rapid test backlog counted; 25 deaths in Victoria; 3,300 in hospital

LIVE – Updated at 22:55

Follow all the day’s news.


If you are among the tens of thousands of people who will be testing positive to Covid-19 on a RAT today, you better get up to speed on what to do next.

Check out our TikTok below that explains how to register your positive results with the government.

If that link doesn’t work for you, you can also check out the video here:

Crown ready to accept takeover bid by Blackstone

22:52 Ben Butler

The board of troubled casino empire Crown Resorts says it’s ready to accept a takeover bid by Blackstone after the private equity group sweetened its offer.

If it goes ahead, the takeover would see billionaire James Packer finally end his association with Crown (and trouser a fat payout for his shares).

In a statement to the ASX, Crown said Blackstone had increased its offer by 60c a share, to $13.10. This is a premium to yesterday’s closing price of $11.63.

There’s a bit more to be done to get the deal over the line – Blackstone needs to conduct additional due diligence work and make a binding offer.

Should Blackstone make a binding offer at a price of no less than $13.10 cash per share then, subject to the parties entering into a binding implementation agreement on terms and conditions acceptable to Crown, it is the Crown board’s current unanimous intention to recommend that shareholders vote in favour of the proposal in the absence of a superior proposal and subject to an independent expert concluding (and continuing to conclude) that the proposed transaction is in the best interests of Crown shareholders.

© Provided by The Guardian
Crown’s businesses include Melbourne’s Crown Casino. Photograph: James Ross/AAP



The deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce raised some eyebrows earlier this morning when he told Nine’s Today that people should not panic about Omicron as it was like a “mild flu” for the double vaccinated.


It’s everywhere. It’s in Queensland, NSW, it’s – the place is alive with it. We are lucky it’s a mild case … for people who have been double vaccinated. And I’ve had it and it’s like a 2.5 out of 10 flu for a couple of days. That’s how I experienced it.


That is not for everyone, though, deputy prime minister. It’s a lot worse for a lot of people.


I know. I know. For some people … And, yeah, and for some people it can kill you. I am not putting aside the seriousness of it for some people.

But, you know, why do I say that? I say that so we don’t have this sort of complete panic because it’s – I’d be worried if the flu breaks out because a lot of people haven’t had the flu for a couple of years. We haven’t been in touch with it. And, you know, that will have a serious effect as well but we can’t shut down the country over that and we’ve got to move on.

With rapid antigen tests, we are bringing in tens of millions of these rapid antigen tests.


Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is getting stuck into the Morrison government nice and early this morning, asking for an explanation as to why Australian rapid test technology has been used overseas but not on home soil.


OK, NSW Health has published details on how many of the cases reported today were part of the rapid antigen test backlog.

They say that 61,387 positive RATs have been logged, dating back to 1 January. Of those, 50,729 were from the last seven days.


Just to clarify, Victoria has actually recorded 37,169 new Covid-19 cases overnight. The number in the 60,000’s was the number of PCR tests conducted.

Apologies for that.

Victorian records 37,169 Covid-19 cases and 25 deaths

Victoria has also published their daily numbers (they started working through the RAT backlog several days ago). The state has recorded 37,169 new Covid cases and sadly 25 deaths.

NSW records 92,264 Covid cases including a backlog of positive RATs

NSW has reported a record 92,264 cases of Covid-19, however, it’s important to note this number includes a backlog of tens of thousands of positive RAT results dating back to 1 January.

Sadly 22 people have died in the latest reporting period.


The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, says nearly 350,000 Covid-19 vaccines were administered in Australia yesterday, including 254,112 booster shots.


Sydney Festival chair, David Kirk, says that the board “missed” that the Israeli embassy would be sponsoring the festival, a fact that led to dozens of acts pulling out.

He promised that a “comprehensive review” would now take place.

There is a lot of work for us to do after the festival … We’re intending to undertake a comprehensive review of everything that was done in the lead up to this festival and what may have caused us to be in a position where artists felt unsafe.

Albanese says Djokovic saga is an ‘international embarrassment’

Just jumping back to Albanese for a moment – the opposition leader has labelled the Novak Djokovic saga an “international embarrassment for Australia”.

How do you get a visa in the first place?

Australia has a policy of not allowing unvaccinated people into Australia. The government is yet to explain how that occurred.

And this has been a debacle yet again, a government sitting back, waiting for a problem becomes a crisis before it acts.

This is an international embarrassment for Australia. Everyone knew about Novak Djokovic and the Australian Open. It’s not like we didn’t know when the date was. It’s been the leading sports story in the world for many months. How is it that it came to this?


OK, we are just standing by now for those Victorian and NSW Covid-19 numbers to come through in about 20 minutes.

Remember, we are expecting a big jump in the NSW numbers as the state begins working its way through the backlog of positive rapid antigen tests.


21:34 Royce Kurmelovs

An Extinction Rebellion activist whose home was raided by Western Australia’s counter-terror police over a chalk message has had the case against her thrown out by a Perth magistrate.

Rosa Hicks was one of six arrested after a group of activists used washable chalk paint to write messages on a pedestrian bridge in Perth within view of Woodside’s headquarters to protest the company’s development of the $16bn Scarborough gas project.

Hicks was not involved in applying the paint, arrived after the protest had started and took photos on someone else’s phone. She said she did not take any active part and was very conscious of avoiding any violation of the conditions of her visa.

You can read the full report below:

Related: Extinction Rebellion activist has chalk message case thrown out by Perth magistrate


The opposition leader has been asked how he plans to win back Queensland in the upcoming election.


By being concerned with their interests – by listening. I have spent a lot of time in Queensland as the Labor leader but before that for many years. I think Queensland has trusted me to be able to deliver.

… We are campaigning on … a better life with working families, with cheaper childcare, with dealing with Medicare and strengthening it, not undermining it like this government has done. Affordable housing. The second issue is that of secure work.



People knew as part of the national plan that we would face increased number of infections and therefore increased pressure.

But we have had now a circumstance whereby people can’t get access to their booster shots, they can’t get access to rapid antigen tests, and the government said pharmacists should go out and find them themselves. An extraordinary comment or position for the government to take.

And of course we know that there isn’t food on supermarket shelves in places right around Australia at the moment. And parents are under pressure because they were told their children could be vaccinated at this time and so many of them have struggling to get appointments.

© Provided by The Guardian
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has accused the Morrison government of ‘extraordinary complacency’. Photograph: Darren Pateman/AAP


Albanese is laying the blame of Australia’s current Covid predicament squarely at Morrison’s feet.

How is it we have got to this point? The rapid antigen tests were approved last September.

The national plan made it clear that once we opened up there would be an increased number of infections and we needed to make sure we planned for it. We needed Scott Morrison to do his job.

But he just went through saying we will all be together [at] Christmas, it will will all be right, without putting in place mechanisms required.

And in the tender that was bought by the government, some $62m of RATs that have been purchased, it was because of urgent and unforeseen circumstances … Why wasn’t there a normal commercial operation.

Well this was foreseen.


Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese is up on ABC now, and he has kicked off the morning by slamming the Morrison government for not buying rapid tests en masse earlier.

Working people have been saying that they needed access to testing for example for months after months. The Transport Workers Union wrote to the government last September about supply chains and the disruptions that could occur if they didn’t get access to rapid antigen tests and now we know this government only ordered en masse rapid antigen tests this week. It’s extraordinary their complacency.

We have had a grand slam of failures from this government, whether it’s tracing, testing, and quarantine. On each occasion they wait until … a problem becomes a crisis before Scott Morrison acts.


21:06 Ben Butler

Further to our piece on traders on Melbourne retail and hospitality strip Chapel St declaring a “code red”, a spokesperson for the Victorian minister for small business, Jaala Pulford, tells Guardian Australia she will meet with traders this afternoon.

Related: ‘Code red’: Melbourne businesses say Omicron wave more damaging than lockdown

National cabinet will meet today to discuss measures to increase the labour supply as a wave of staff shortages caused by the Omicron wave wreaks havoc across the Australian economy.

But so far states and the federal government appear to have little appetite for the cash handouts for which businesses are asking, with Scott Morrison calling for “patience”.

And at the Victorian state level, government sources indicate there’s a reluctance a return to the disaster payments or business grants handed out during the Melbourne lockdowns last year.

Figuring out who is eligible would be a problem, but one big issue appears to be who would pay for it. The state budget has already been blown up by Covid and proposals by traders that Canberra fund half seem so far have fallen on deaf ears.

Related: From empty shelves to cancelled festivals: how Omicron is wreaking havoc across Australia


Well, scratch that, Victor Dominello has just told Sunrise that the number of positive antigen tests registered with the NSW government is now up to 82,000.

As it goes, it is 82,000, but that is 82,000 over 12 days.

We expect to get a high number given that we have provided for people to put their data from 1 January. This is not just people putting in data from yesterday, it is people having rapid antigen tests on the second and third and fourth of January, putting that information in and getting it together. They are high numbers.

NSW minister admits RAT fines ‘almost impossible’ to enforce

New South Wales residents have rushed to post positive results from rapid antigen tests since the start of the year, as the state government admits it will be “almost impossible” to apply fines for non-compliance, reports AAP’s Jack Gramenz.

By Thursday morning, more than 78,000 people had uploaded positive results from tests taken since January 1, customer service and digital minister Victor Dominello said.

This is a jump of about 25,000 from the 53,000 results posted by Wednesday afternoon.

The reporting system for positive RAT results went live on Wednesday morning and while the requirement only became mandatory on the day, NSW residents have been asked to add tests taken since the start of the year.

From January 19, the government will begin imposing a $1000 fine on anyone who does not report their positive RAT result.

Dominello admitted to the Nine Network that will be very difficult to do but the government had to send a message that reporting a positive result was important.

It’s almost going to be impossible in many ways to enforce…

But the majority of the states and territories in the country have gone down the path of issuing a fine or putting a fine in place – Tasmania, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT – and some have chosen the other path of just saying please do it.

© Provided by The Guardian
NSW minister for customer service and digital Victor Dominello. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Dominello said registering a test result was mainly about connecting infected people with any health care need they might need or federal government financial assistance.

The number of Covid-19 cases in NSW is expected to spike as the government begins adding RAT results to standard PCR test results.

NSW Health will provide an update on infection numbers at 9am on Thursday.


20:55 Jon Henley

Novak Djokovic could face a fine or even prison in Serbia after his admission that he broke isolation while he had Covid last month, lawyers have said, as the Serbian prime minister warned his behaviour appeared to be “a clear breach” of the rules.

The 34-year-old Belgrade-born tennis player is chasing a record-breaking 21st grand slam victory at the Australian Open beginning on Monday, but could yet be deported by the government which is unhappy with his medical exemption from inoculation.

Djokovic on Wednesday acknowledged that he knew he had tested positive when he attended a newspaper interview and photoshoot in the Serbian capital on 18 December, saying in a statement on social media he had made an “error of judgment”.

You can read the full report from Jon Henley and Milivoje Pantovic below:

Related: Novak Djokovic faces fine or prison for breaking isolation while Covid positive


Good morning

Good morning everyone, it’s Matilda Boseley here on the blog with you, ready to bring you all the day’s news (as well as milking the fact that I currently have Covid-19 for sympathy as much as humanly possible).

Now we are all bracing for a tidal wave of cases from New South Wales this morning as today is the first day rapid antigen tests will be included in the daily numbers. It’s expected that the sizeable backlog of positive results will result in a record high.

In the afternoon we also have a national cabinet meeting to look forward to. The main things on the agenda: students’ return to school for the 2022 year, and food supply chain security.

Leaders will also hear from Treasury officials on the economic reasons to keep schools open.

It’s expected the list of sectors classified as essential will also expand following the national cabinet meeting, in order to keep supply chains moving.

This all comes after Australia’s leading medical advisory group recommended earlier this week that food and grocery workers be able to return to work after being a close contact of a positive Covid case, provided they then return a negative rapid test.

A similar proposal could be laid out for other sectors classified as essential, which could include road, rail and air transport, mental health, education and energy supply.

It’s expected transport and logistics workers will be prioritised.

Meanwhile, ministers have flagged the possibility jobseeker recipients could be deployed into workforces that are facing staff shortages.

A plan to increase the hours international students are able to work to 40 hours a fortnight is also being considered as a way to alleviate pressure on sectors hardest hit by the virus.

National cabinet will also settle on a date for when concession cardholders can access free rapid tests from pharmacies.

So as you can see there is plenty to get through! So why don’t we get cracking!


20:33 Ben Butler

Hash Tayeh has been back behind the counter at the burger chain he founded, Burgertory, for the first time in three years as he struggles to keep the business going in the face of the Omicron wave.

He has been doing night shifts at his outlet on Chapel Street in Melbourne, a fashionable shopping and entertainment strip which local traders say has been overwhelmed by Covid-related staff shortages.

The pandemic taught him to “just never get too comfortable and always be humble,” he said.

“So I was helping them take orders, take out the rubbish, mop the floors, do the dishes – wherever they needed me.”

Two hundred and sixty of Burgertory’s 400 staff have had Covid.

You can read the full report below:

Related: ‘Code red’: Melbourne businesses say Omicron wave more damaging than lockdown

Source: Thanks